Argentina will face Chile in the Copa America final after an emphatic 6-1 demolition of Paraguay – in which Angel Di Maria, Marcos Rojo and Sergio Aguero all found the net.
The two sides had already faced each other in the tournament – following their opening game 2-2 draw – and just like on that occasion, La Albiceleste took control of the match early on, grabbing the lead after 15 minutes when Rojo smashed home a finish from a freekick scramble inside the box.
Javier Pastore doubled his side’s advantage before the half hour mark – finding the bottom corner with a low finish after excellent build-up work from Lionel Messi, who was the driving force behind Argentina’s impressive performance.
Paraguay gave themselves hope of a comeback just before the break, when Lucas Barrios made the most of some slack defending to finish past Sergio Romero. But goals from Di Maria, Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain ensured that Argentina secured their place in Saturday’s final against Chile in style.
9’ BIG CHANCE FOR PARAGUAY! Santa Cruz should have done much better with that one. The ball falls to the striker about 10 yards out, but he skews his effort wide of the target. Wow.
14’ PASTORE SHOT ON GOAL! Di Maria is released down the right side and crosses into Pastore, who has time inside the box. But he couldn’t get enough purchase on his effort and Villar saves.
15’ GOAL! Argentina 1 Paraguay 0: La Albiceleste have taken the lead! A freekick causes a bit of a scramble in the box, and Rojo swivels to score with a low finish.
26’ GREAT SAVE BY VILLAR! That really could have been 2-0 to Argentina. Messi broke on the counter attack and slots in Pastore. But the PSG man can’t squeeze the shot in at the near post.
27’ GOAL! Argentina 2 Paraguay 0: What a finish! Paraguay have been caught out on the break, with Messi threading through Pastore – who found the bottom corner with a low shot.
43’ GOAL! Argentina 2 Paraguay 1: They’ve done it again! Barrios makes the most of some poor defending and sends a finish past Romero. He scored the equaliser in the first game against Argentina!
49’ GOAL! Argentina 3 Paraguay 1: Could that be the goal that takes Argentina to the final? Pastore threads through Di Maria, who finishes with he outside of his foot.
54’ GOAL! Argentina 4 Paraguay 1: Where was the Paraguayan defence? There was four waiting to stick home the finish for Argentina on the break, and Di Maria applied the finish into the empty net.
59’ THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN FIVE! Messi gets to the byline and squares a pass into the near post. Pastore slides in to apply the finish but can only find the keeper, who was already on the ground!
69’ MESSI STILL CAN’T FIND THE NET! Pastore and Messi link up brilliantly on the edge of the penalty area, but Messi takes it slightly too wide and can’t squeeze his shot past Villar in goals.
80’ GOAL! Argentina 5 Paraguay 1: And there’s the fifth for Argentina! Di Maria crosses a great ball into the box and Aguero gets his head to it to direct his effort into the far corner of the net.
83’ GOAL! Argentina 6 Paraguay 1: This is becoming a mauling now! Messi somehow makes a pass through to Higuain, and the Napoli striker arrows a shot into the top corner.
Argentina hadn’t scored six or more goals in a competitive match against Paraguay in 68 years (6-0 in the 1947 Copa América).
Javier Pastore became the third Argentinian to register both a goal and assist in a Copa America semifinal, after Carlos Tevez (2004) and Juan Roman Riquelme (2007).
TALKING POINT – Has Tata Martino finally found a way to spark Argentina’s frontline into life?
For all their quality in attack, Argentina had been somewhat insipid in this summer’s Copa America – until this thumping of Paraguay. This was the first time Messi, Aguero, Di Maria and Pastore have clicked in the final third, and Paraguay simply had no response. With those four in this sort of form, Chile won’t be able to cope either.
MAN OF THE MATCH – Javier Pastore
The Paris Saint-Germain playmaker was so good that he even outshone Messi. Pastore hasn’t enjoyed the best Copa America, but this display demonstrated why Martino has stuck by him in his starting lineup, especially with so much quality and pedigree on the bench. His second goal effectively ended the match as a contest, and along with Messi and Di Maria he was exceptional in the final third.
Argentina – Romero 5, Zabaleta 7, Demichelis 6, Otamendi 6, Rojo 7, Biglia 7, Mascherano 6, Pastore 9, Messi 9, Di Maria 8, Aguero 6. Subs – Banega 6, Gago 5, Higuain 6.
Paraguay – Villar 5, Valdez 6, Da Silva 5, Aguilar 5, Piris 5, Caceres 6, Ortiz 4, Gonzalez 5, Benitez 5, Valdez 4, Santa Cruz 4. Subs – Bobadilla 5, Barrios 7, Romero 5.